04 Jul F*ck Scrubs, Get Acids
Sorry to be crude but seriously, screw scrubs. And no, this has nothing to do with the whole micro bead debate. This has everything to do with the fact that most of us have been taught that using scrubs regularly is a great way to exfoliate our skin when in reality this is much too abrasive and harsh. And this rule doesn’t just apply people with sensitive skin. Using scrubs regularly is too harsh for all skin types and can lead to sensitivity and other problems.
So how can you safely exfoliate, get rid of blackheads, and fight blemishes? The answer is simple: acid.
The two main types of topical exfoliants are Alpha-Hydroxy Acids or AHAs and the Beta-Hydroxy Acid salicylic acid. Here’s a breakdown of what they are, how they work, and what they can do for you.
Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHAs): Don’t let the word acid freak you out. AHAs can be derived naturally from plants and milk but 99% of them used in skin care products are synthetically derived. When it comes to cosmetics, the most effective, well-researched forms are glycolic acid and lactic acid. Other types of AHAs you may see listed on ingredients lists include tartaric, malic, and citric acids but there is less research proving them to have skin care benefits so your best bet is to stick with glycolic (my personal fave) or lactic acid.
When used in concentrations of 4% of higher AHAs break down the substance in the skin that holds cells together. Again this sounds a little freaky, but all this does is exfoliate skin cells away to reveal healthy, brighter skin. Other benefits to this type of topical exfoliation include: removing sun-damaged cells, reducing redness, and unclogging pores. AHAs will also help even out your skin tone and prevent the signs of aging. I suggest incorporating a product containing AHAs into your routine three days a week and working your way up to every day. AHAs can be used at night, in the morning, or both. Just be warned that they do cause increased sensitivity to the sun. You should already be using SPF every single day, but if for some insane reason you don’t, you have to use it when you add AHAs into your skin care mix.
My favorite AHA products:
Skin Authority Resurfacing Accelerator ($21-$50) – I love to put this on at night and let it exfoliate away while I sleep peacefully before waking up with clear, rejuvenated skin.
M-61 Power Glow Peels ($28-$110) – When I have a date or a skin care event I cleanse my skin before smoothing on one of these exfoliating peels and then follow it with a serum or moisturizer for a guaranteed gorgeous glow.
BeautyRX Advanced 10% Exfoliating Pads ($70) – This is not a starter product so if you’re new to AHAs, glycolic in particular, you’ll need to work your way up to this highly concentrated peel pad. That being said, this is hands down one of my favorite products because it doesn’t mess around when it comes to exfoliating, unclogging pores, and making skin look radiant.
Dr.Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel ($16-$148) – This two-step peel takes just two minutes and does wonders to whip dull skin into shape. Just apply step one and wait two minutes before applying the next step. No rinse necessary. Easy peasy!
Beta-Hydroxy Acid (BHA): Salicylic acid is the lone wolf in the BHA family. As in, that’s it. Salicylic acid is the only BHA. It’s a derivative of aspirin so it has anti-inflammatory properties and is widely used to treat acne. It works by penetrating deeply into the lining of pores, giving it the ability to exfoliate the inside of pores as well as the skin’s surface. If you suffer from breakouts, blackheads, and whiteheads this is a must-have ingredient when it comes to your skin care routine because it has been proven to be highly effective at treating all those concerns. If acne isn’t a concern for you I’m extremely jealous, but more importantly, salicylic acid has also been proven to increase collagen production and protect barrier function. Basically, it can be used to knock acne on its ass while brightening skin and decreasing wrinkles.
Salicylic Acid can be used in the morning, at night, or both. It tends to be drying so be sure to follow with a moisturizing serum or cream to ensure your skin stays hydrated.
My favorite BHA products:
Paula’s Choice CALM Redness Relief 1% BHA Lotion Exfoliant ($26) – Even people with sensitive skin can reap the rewards of salicylic acid like minimized pores and smoothed skin thanks to this nifty gentle product free of all irritants .
SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense ($90) – Improve wrinkles and acne in one fell swoop. Just a small dab of this serum works to relieve already formed pimples and clear up any eruptions lurking in the wings.
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid ($28) – 2% salicylic acid can be too much for people with dry or sensitive skin, but if you’re oily and prone to breakouts like me you may as well consider this product liquid gold. Just apply to a cotton ball and target your problem areas or use it on the entirety of your face if you feel so inclined.
Skin Authority Acne & Oil Control ($20-$52) – This oil-free product packs a punch with both glycolic acid and salicylic acid. It can be used daily to normalize oil production, resulting in blemish-free, matte skin.
Pro Tip: After using BHA or AHA products on your face, they can also be applied on your neck, decolletage, and the tops of your hands as an anti-aging measure. These delicate areas age just as quickly as our faces so you’re going to want to keep them tight.